Francis Scott Key's football team has gotten off to an exciting start this season.
The Eagles have won their first three games for the first time since 2003. FSK last made the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state playoffs in 2006, but then one- and two-win campaigns with multiple blowout losses became the norm.
A seed for the turnaround was planted last year when the Eagles won their final game of the season against Winters Mill to finish 1-9. The program has taken the momentum from that game into this season, and now stands as Carroll County's lone undefeated team.
"Last week we were on the road in Harford County against Patterson Mill, but roughly 250 people made the trek to watch us play," FSK second-year head coach Josh Rutter said. "It was pretty crazy to be on the opposing side but have our fans start a 'defense' chant when Patterson Mill had the ball. That is one thing our community does, because FSK draws kids from all over, when we have success and people get behind us, it makes for a really fun atmosphere."
Not only has FSK been winning, it has been doing it with ease, outscoring opponents, 134-55.
The Eagles have made their biggest strides on offense. Last season, FSK didn't score more than 30 points in a game. The Eagles have eclipsed that total in each game this season and have already scored 20 touchdowns. The scoring has been spread around, as eight different players have found the end zone.
"Chemistry and familiarity have been the biggest things for us so far," senior quarterback Jacob Pirrung said. "We barely graduated anyone from last year's offense, so we know ourselves, what we have to do and what plays we're going to run. The line has been amazing, and we have a lot of really talented playmakers, so my job so far has been to run the offense and make sure everything goes smoothly."
While the Eagles have done well spreading the ball around, there's no doubt the team's leader is senior running back Nate Imes.
Imes has picked up where he left off last season when he was an All-County selection. He has 444 yards rushing on 42 attempts and has scored seven touchdowns. Imes has gotten the job done on defense, too, registering 24 tackles as a linebacker.
Utilizing a Wing-T offense, the Eagles consistently use six running backs throughout the game. Juniors Bobby Sylves and Corey Goodman have both stood out; Sylves has rushed for 120 yards, while Goodman has 109 rushing yards.
"It's not just one weapon like people may think," Imes said. "We have more than one guy who can handle being the go-to guy. It's helped keep everyone fresh."
Now, FSK will see if it can win against Carroll County teams.
On Sept. 22 the Eagles face Century in their county opener. It's the start of a six-game stretch in which the team will exclusively play Carroll County opponents.
Against Century, the Eagles have an opportunity to measure how much they've improved. Last season, Century routed FSK, 48-0. Because of that result, the Eagles still feel like they're being viewed as the underdog around Carroll County, despite Century being winless in 2017.
While Rutter wants his team to approach this game like it would any other, he did acknowledge it is an opportunity for his group to make some noise in Carroll County play for the first time in a while.
"We have kids that know guys who play for other teams from around the county, so they've been hearing it from them," Rutter said. "A lot of people won't believe we've improved until we do better in Carroll County. Have we turned the corner as a program, or did the scheduling just work out for us and we caught some teams early? I know our guys are ready and beyond excited to show how good of a football team we are."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Denise Paolini